[AD 50 - 300]
AD 50: Establishment of Kushans
The Kushans were a branch of the nomadic Yeuhchi tribe of China. The
Yeuhchi tribe was in conflict with another tribe and so was forced to
leave China. They came to Central Asia and then spread to Bactria,
Paritha and Afghanistan. Gradually they were divided into five
branches. One of these branches -- Kouel Chougang (Kushans) -- was
superior to all. The Kushans under Kujala attacked the Parithans, took
possessions of Ki-pin and Kabul and became the complete master of the
Kujala became the first king of the Kushans and was known as Kadphises
I. He was a great warrior. He was succeeded by his son Wima Kadphises
known as Kadphises II. He conquered the north-western region of
India. He defeated Saka Satraps in the north-west. Punjab and Sind
were his dominions.
AD 120: Reign of Kanishka
Kanishka was the most famous of the Kushan kings. It is not known how he
became the king but he ascended the throne in AD 120. When Kanishka
ascended the throne, his empire consisted of Afghanistan, Sind, Punjab
and portions of the former Parithan and Bactrian kingdoms.
His empire extended from the north-west and Kashmir, over most of the
Gangetic valley. He annexed three provinces of the Chinese empire,
namely, Tashkand, Khotan and Yarkhand. He was the only king who ruled
over these territories. He had two capitals at Purushpura (Peshawar
now in Pakistan) and at Mathura in west Uttar Pradesh. Kanishka proved
that he was a great conqueror.
Successors of Kanishka
Kanishka's immediate successor was Vashiska who was then succeeded by
Huvishka. Mathura became the centre of Kushans. Many monuments were
erected during Huvishka's reign. The last great king of Kushans was
Vasudev I. The Kushans were overthrown by the Sassanians of Persia in
the north-west and the Guptas in the north. The rule of Kushans ended
almost at the same time as that of the Satavahans in the south.
Buddhism during the Kushans
Kanishka embraced Buddhism towards the middle of his reign. He is said
to have been Zoroastrian before he became Buddhist. He spent his
resources in spreading Buddhism. Mahayana was the new form of Buddhism
that was followed during this period where the Buddha was worshipped
as God. Old monastries were repaired and many new ones were built.
Art, Science and Literature
Kanishka was a great patron of art and literature. A new form of art
Gandhara Art was developed. Beautiful images of Buddha were
developed in a Greek-Roman style. These images were carved in a
realistic way, with graceful bodies and curly hair.
Kanishka's court was adorned by many scholars like Ashvaghosha,
Vasumitra, Nagarjuna and Charaka. Ashvaghosha was a great poet and a
master of music. He wrote Buddhacharita, a biography of the
Buddha. Charak was a great physician and he wrote a book Charak
Samhita, which is based on the Ayurvedic system of medicine.
||Kushan king repulsed by the Chinese General Pan Chao
|| An-Shih-Kao translates a work by Kanishka's Chaplain
|| China loses Khotan
|| The Yueh chi king Vasudeva sends an embassy to China
||Sassanian conquest of parts of North-West India